Cranbrook School

How do students apply for an exchange – who is/what subjects are eligible? The students sign up on a first come-first served basis, anyone studying French is eligible.

Does an exchange necessarily involve foreign stays or travel? It does, as we go to Bayeux (Normandy) with the Y9s for 6 days, and we go to St Jean-de-Luz (Basque area) with the 6th form for one week. The students also receive their exchange partners in Cranbrook for a similar amount of time. The two visits are within a term of each other.

What are the benefits of studying elsewhere? In MFL, the home stay is invaluable to absorb the language, as each student is hosted individually in a French family. It also brings an individual human dimension to the experience of an exchange. We have group visits to see local sites, which also bring an historical dimention to the exchange, as the French and British histories are closely linked. The time spent in schools is also a great eye opener for our students, as they can visualise their counterparts in their academic and social environment. 

What type of feedback do you get from students and host schools? The students fill out a feedback sheet after the exchanges, which helps us assess the success of some activities and of the exchange itself. The schools usually give verbal feedback and emails, but their keen interest to repeat the experience every year is positive feedback in itself. The teachers and I review the programme of activities every year, in order to achieve the most positive experience for the students.

How popular have exchanges proved to be? In general, about 20 Y9s sign up for the Bayeux exchange, and the 6th Form exchange is a lower number as our 6th form is much smaller. For the 6th form, we join forces with Kent College to get 14 students to take part. The St Jean students are split between the two schools during their Kent visit, even though we join together for out-of-school visits. Kent College and Cranbrook travel together to St Jean and do a fully joined visit there. 

Considering our number of students, I would say the exchanges are popular. We are starting a mini-exchange experience with our Y7s in the summer; they are in contact with a school in Le Touquet, and will visit the area and the school in the summer term.

Sevenoaks Prep

How do students apply for an exchange – who is/what subjects are eligible? At Sevenoaks Prep, all Year 6 pupils are invited to take part in our French Exchange programme and the vast majority of students participate.

Does an exchange necessarily involve foreign stays or travel? The annual exchange sees our pupils travel to Villeneuve d’Ascq near Lille in the Easter Term, before the French students return to Sevenoaks a few weeks later. It is a relationship cultivated between the two schools by the Head of French at Sevenoaks Prep, Mme Clark, and her counterpart in Lille, Mme Delannoy.

What are the benefits of studying elsewhere? Our pupils are put into pairs and assigned a host family in Lille who will have a son or daughter of a similar age. It is a very popular highlight of Year 6 and an experience through which pupils get to develop their independence, social skills and resilience, by learning to overcome any initial nerves that come from stepping out of their comfort zone. As well as practising their French language, they learn about French history and culture by visiting a national art museum and our pupils are always eager to welcome their French partners back to their homes to spend a few days together again. It is wonderful to see how the friendships develop over email before and after the visits, and to watch the young students’ confidence grow as they enjoy time away from their own countries and culture, bonding over shared interests like sport, singing and films.

How popular have exchanges proved to be? The exchange programme is so popular that it has been running for over six years now, and will continue to be an important part of the Year 6 curriculum. We are fortunate that our parents are so supportive of it and hope that it will continue successfully for a long time.

Sutton Valence School

How do students apply for an exchange? During the summer of 2017, pupils from Sutton Valence School enjoyed exchange trips to India, Australia and New Zealand. These exciting opportunities were advertised to pupils whilst in Year 10, inviting them to apply to undertake the overseas trip following the completion of their GCSE exams in the summer of Year 11.

Does an exchange necessarily involve foreign stays/travel? The five boys and girls who visited India worked as exchange students at the Mathieson Music School in Calcutta for two weeks. They travelled unaccompanied to India and stayed on the School campus throughout their time there. The three girls who enjoyed a seven-week exchange experience at Roseville College in Sydney, Australia and the two girls who went to the Waikato Diocesan School for Girls in New Zealand all stayed with carefully selected host families.

What are the benefits of studying elsewhere? The benefits to the pupils participating in exchange trips are enormous. In addition to gaining an appreciation of other cultures, the experience of travelling independently and working alongside people from a range of countries, greatly increases their personal confidence and communication skills. They return to school in the UK with unique knowledge and experiences, able to encourage and inspire others to consider similar exchanges. Acting as hosts for pupils visiting from exchange partner schools further develops their skills and awareness of their own surroundings.

What type of feedback do you get from students and host schools? Feedback from both pupils and host schools has been resoundingly positive. The Principal of Roseville College in Sydney commented that she was thrilled by how well the exchange had gone and how delightful the Sutton Valence girls were. One of the exchange participants has already been offered a position as a gap student at Roseville College following her A levels. The group who visited Calcutta felt extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with the orphans and are planning to visit the school again after their A level exams in 2019 to continue to make a positive contribution.

How popular have exchanges proved to be? The Sutton Valence School exchange trips that took place in 2017 were very popular and well supported by the community. The School recognises the tremendous value of these experiences in developing individuals and plans to facilitate similar opportunities for its pupils over the coming years. It is hoped that the range of exchange destinations for Sutton Valence pupils may be expanded in the future to include China and Nepal as the School continues to develop strong relationships in these countries.

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